America 2019: Day Five (Wednesday 22 May)

It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet
It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids selling lemonade
It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God
It’s America

                                                                                                                               – Rodney Atkins

 

Wednesday 22 May

Absolutely and undoubtedly one of the best days of my life!

We started out by driving over to Speedway, the suburb that surrounds – yep, you guessed it – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and went to Charlie Brown’s, a famous diner, for breakfast. It’s not uncommon to see former and current drivers and other racing personalities in this joint, and we’d only been there a few minutes before three-time Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter walked in. We also saw 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal sitting at the counter. Pretty cool! I was hoping to see four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who is a regular, but we were either too early or too late for the man known as Super Tex.

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Thanks, Ed!

I had a brief chat with Ed, who’ll start second on Sunday, after apologising for interrupting his breakfast. He mentioned that he had an Australian engineer and asked if we were rooting/cheering for Will Power. I said we’d love to see Will win, but also him, which I don’t think Ed completely believed at first, until I told him that it would be cool to see a local boy who’s come agonisingly close on so many occasions finally get the win. He was a nice guy, and we left him to his breakfast soon after.

 

As is always the case in America, breakfast was huge. I had a sausage and egg omelette that also came with two giant pancakes and I really couldn’t finish either. Coffee was great, and there were tonnes of racing memorabilia all over the walls, which was fascinating. In a way, with all the autographed photos and other items, it reminded me of a racing version of Carnegie’s Deli in New York City. Serving sizes are definitely the same…

 

From Charlie Brown’s to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where we parked on the grounds of the IMS Museum and went on a bus tour around the track. The highlight of that was a stop at the famous yard of bricks on the start/finish line, where we posed for photos. It’s been tradition that the winner of any race at Indianapolis – IndyCar, NASCAR, MotoGP and Formula One – kisses those bricks as part of the victory celebrations, and you bet we did that! The sheer size of the facility as you look at it from the track is immense. It’s eerie when it’s quiet, and you can almost hear the ghosts of 102 years of history swirling around you.

 

Photos: the winner of the first Indianapolis 500, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500, and bricks at the start/finish line marking the centenary of racing at IMS and four-time winner A.J. Foyt.

In the museum afterward, we ran into Dario Franchitti, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, who was touring the facility with his young daughter. In what was a very cool moment, we witnessed Dario putting his daughter into the Andretti Honda that he won the race with. We also saw former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick – the only female to ever win an IndyCar Series race – filming for NBC. She’ll be working with that broadcaster on Sunday.

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Sunday’s Grand Prize, the Borg Warner Trophy!

We squeezed in a stop at the store before heading off back to the Airbnb for a few hours. I took the opportunity to go out for a walk. Our neighbourhood is very much typical of Midwestern suburbia, with wide streets, mostly ranch-style houses (as they call them here) on giant blocks of land with no fences. There are a mix of American flags and Indianapolis Motor Speedway flags hanging from front porches or affixed to letter boxes. All in all, not that much different from Chicago or Milwaukee or St Louis or any other Midwestern city. But nice. I’ve really come to enjoy this part of the world.

 

Later in the afternoon, we drove an hour out of Indianapolis to the town of Terre Haute. After a stop at a bar that was recommended to us, we arrived at the Terre Haute Action Track, a 1/2 mile dirt oval, where the United States Auto Club (USAC) wingless sprint cars were contesting the 49th annual Tony Hulman Classic.

 

There’s nothing like watching these little cars flung around a banked dirt oval, sideways in the corner and barely in control on the straights. In days gone by, drivers competing in the Indianapolis 500 came up through the ranks of USAC competition, and although the connection these days is a little tenuous, on the week before the Indianapolis 500, it’s the sprint car guys who take centre stage, with three big races tonight, tomorrow and Friday night.

After a great racing program, we drove home to Indianapolis, arriving just before 11:30pm. Nothing scheduled for the morning tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to a big sleep-in!


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